Story 66: A Middle-Aged Student

Sakaki was an ironsmith and craftsman. He had fashioned an elegant inkstand with such a delicate lock that it was only worthy of Kings. He anticipated ample appreciation and encouragement for his work. Thus, he offered the inkstand to the King with high hopes and desires. In the beginning, as was expected, the King was impressed with it; but later on, an event occurred which completely changed Sakaki’s mind, as well as his way of life.

While the king was busy looking at his handicraft, and Sakaki was immersed in the realm of fancy, an erudite man’s arrival (a literary person or a jurisprudent) was reported. As soon as he arrived, the King was so occupied with his entertainment and hospitality that he completely forgot about Sakaki. Witnessing this scene, it provoked a profound mixture of feelings in Sakaki's soul. He realized that his work was not appreciated and encouraged as it should have been. However, Sakaki’s ambitious spirit was not one which could easily calm down. Then what could he do?

He thought to do the same as others before him had done, to follow the same path others had taken, to pursue books and learning and rediscover his lost dreams. Although it was not an easy job for an older man, whose youth had passed him by, to become schoolmates with younger students and to start from the basics, there was no alternative before him. After all, whenever a fish is taken out of water, it is still fresh.

Furthermore, what added to his difficulties was that he found no interest in studies in the beginning. Perhaps the reason for his stagnation in education and literature was that he had spent many years of his life working in arts and handicrafts. However, neither his advanced age nor the decline in capacity could deter him from the decision which he had made.

He began studying very hard until one day an incident took place. The teacher was teaching him Shafi’i jurisprudence. He taught: ‘The teacher’s belief is that the skin of a dog becomes pure after tanning.’

Sakaki repeated these words over and over to himself to help him pass the course, but while reciting it during his exams, he instead said: ‘A dog’s belief is that the teacher’s skin becomes pure after tanning.’

The others burst into laughter and it confirmed to them that this middle-aged man who was interested in studying in his old age was capable of nothing.

Sakaki could no longer stay at that school or in that town, so he left for the desert. The vast world became too tight for him. By chance he reached the foot of a mountain where he saw the little drops of water falling from the top of the mountain down on a rock forming a hole in the hard stone with its constant dripping. He reflected for a while and a thought crossed his mind. He thought: ‘My heart may be inept, but it is not harder than this stone. It is impossible for steadfastness and perseverance to be in vain.’ So he returned and engaged in the pursuit of knowledge until his talent blossomed and his ability shone. In the end, he became a renowned scholar in literature.1

  • 1. Ruzat ul-Janat, p. 747.